For Immediate Release


Alan Barber, 202-293-5380 x115

Role of Disabilities Ignored for Tens of Millions Experiencing Income Poverty

Nearly half of all working age adults experiencing poverty have a disability.

WASHINGTON - When the Census Bureau releases its yearly data on income poverty this
Thursday, there will likely be little focus on disability as a cause
and consequence of poverty. Yet, as a new report
from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows, the
share of people experiencing income poverty who have disabilities is
far larger than conventionally understood. Nearly half of all
working-age adults experiencing poverty during the year have a
disability, and more than half of household heads will experience a
period of disability by their mid-50s.

The paper, "Half in Ten: Why Taking Disability into Account is Essential to Reducing Income Poverty and Expanding Economic Inclusion,"
reviews recent research on disability and poverty that finds higher
rates of disability over the life cycle and among persons experiencing
poverty than earlier research. This research employs newer,
sophisticated data sources and defines disability in a way more
consistent with the modern consensus.  Among the key findings:

  • Almost half of working-age adults who experience income poverty for at least a 12-month period have one or more disabilities.
  • Nearly
    two-thirds of working-age adults who experience consistent income
    poverty-more than 36 months of income poverty during a 48-month
    period-have one or more disabilities.
  • Male
    household heads reaching their mid-50s have a 53 percent chance of
    having been disabled at least once and a 19 percent chance of having
    begun a chronic and severe disability.
  • People
    with disabilities are much more likely to experience various forms of
    material hardship-including food insecurity, not getting needed medical
    or dental care, and not being able to pay rent, mortgage, and utility
    bills-than people without disabilities, even after controlling for income and other characteristics.
  • Measures
    of income poverty that fail to take disability into account likely
    underestimate the income people with disabilities need to meet basic

new findings show that any serious attempt at an agenda to reduce
income poverty must take disability into account as both a cause and
consequence of poverty," said Shawn Fremstad, the author of the report.
"Of particular importance," he adds, "are policies to ensure that all
Americans have health insurance and quality care, provide
paid-sick-days and paid-sick-leave to workers, and the modernization of
Social Security for people with disabilities."

The full report can be found here.


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The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

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